Alistair Gentry

I’m a writer and artist or an artist and writer… sometimes other things, too.

I live in the UK, currently in London. I make live art, performance lectures, interventions, participatory experiences and live role-playing games, mainly for communities and audiences outside of conventional gallery or performance spaces. I like folklore, magic, silly costumes, museums, absurdity, the uncanny valley, doing things that help people think, improving the world incrementally, and making machines and systems do things their makers wouldn’t approve of. The latest updates about my work are in the Blog/News section, or scroll down this page.

Latest news and blog posts

Award Yourself

Article from the Spring 2021 issue of Sluice magazine.


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Now, and recently…

Seen from ground level, people on mobility scooters. Each scooter has a colourful sign on the front with a circular design and the the words "b-side festival".

The Portland Office for Imaginary History‘s mobility scooter safari at b-side Festival, 2021. Photo by Brendan Buesnel.

Spring-Summer 2022: A research residency on a utopian subject, and a commission for an art museum. I know I’m being cryptic. More details soon.

Summer-Autumn 2021: The Portland Office for Imaginary History was open again for YEAR FIVE (first commissioned 2016!), and I diversified into the property market with The Dorchester and Poundbury Office for Imaginary Housing. And like that bit they always used to put at the end of the credits on James Bond films: DoxBox trustbot will return this November. Currently (2021) DoxBox’s physical incarnation lives at The Open Data Institute in London, part of the exhibition Copy That? Surplus Data in an Age of Repetitive Duplication.

Summer-Autumn 2020: A slight recovery: DoxBox trustbot via Electric Dreams international online festival in August chatted to people all over the world including Europe, the USA, Africa and Australia, online with thousands of attendees at the Open Data Institute September and November, and a very queer (in every sense of the word) LARP for the Brontë Parsonage Museum in West Yorkshire.

A person wearing a pink mask, with a pink wig, white googly eyes, and wearing a pink kimono and one white glove. Beside them is DoxBox trustbot, an artificial intelligence who lives in a pink box and has an animated face.

DoxBox trustbot (2019) for the Open Data Insititute. Original photo by Andrea Capello.

2018-2019 I was research artist in residence at The Open Data Institute in London, developing DoxBox trustbot: a tech drag AI for playing with digital ethics, with performances in London at Furtherfield’s Citizen Sci Fi Future Fair and the ODI’s Annual Summit. The Portland Office for Imaginary History returned, I performed live a lot, compiled a-n’s online resource on mental health, and I was part of the Bank Job team, a community arts project about money and debt in the east London community I actually live in, which won the Artquest Workweek Prize for artist-led projects and wrote off £1.2 million of local people’s debts. I’m also in the feature-length Bank Job documentary that is available to buy and stream. You can read my writing about independent artists and artist-led projects in every issue of Sluice magazine.

Self portrait as a bisque doll, 2018. All real artists get turned into a doll.

Highlights of my career so far include the publication of two novels, being artist in residence at the University of Edinburgh’s Genomics Policy & Research Forum, exhibiting my films at La Biennale di Venezia, being awarded the Berwick Gymnasium Artist Fellowship by English Heritage and Arts Council England, everything I’ve done in Japan (日本は私の好きな場所です! 私が帰るように私を招待してください…) and most recently being artist in residence at the Open Data Institute in London, researching and building DoxBox trustbot.

I’ve been an artist in residence in England, Scotland, Wales, Norway and China: a properly paid and supported artist in residence, incidentally, not the type you pay for yourself which is just going on holiday really, isn’t it? I also accidentally set up the planet Earth’s number one online source for the full and unexpurgated erotic letters of James Joyce.

Colonel Robin, Mask for a Yuletide ritual (2016).

My inspiration comes from historical and contemporary folklore, traditional storytelling, and magical or esoteric practices of Britain, Europe and Asia. I have an equal interest in science and technology, particularly the social sciences and their processes. I’ve collaborated extensively with scientists. I sometimes use scientific and academic research methods earnestly, sometimes satirically and pataphysically.

Many of my projects are the result of extensive research in particular places, subjects and communities, sometimes over the course of many years. Read a 2011 interview with me by fellow writer and artist Iain Aitch here or one I did in 2014 for the exhibition Lecture-Performance here.

The Portland Office for Imaginary History (2016+): tourist disinformation bureau. Photo by Peter James Millson.

I was a founder of Market Project: professional and economic research by artists (2010-2013), which was funded by Arts Council England. Until the gallery’s closure in 2012 I was an Associate Artist at ArtSway, having worked with them in various capacities since 2002. For most of my career I’ve worked collaboratively with other artists, writers, designers, actors, architects, scientists and audiences and I still do. I constantly seek new opportunities to make, exhibit and talk about my work, to perform or do readings, and to forge new and lasting connections with interesting people or places, so I really welcome enquiries and communication.

I post regularly on Twitter, and it’s a good place to reach me and ask questions if you want to. You can also contact me via the BIO/CV menu at the top of this page. My critical writing about contemporary art has most recently been published by Unlimited, a-nGaragelandThe Guardian, and Sluice magazine.